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A view through a window may influence recovery from surgery

Roger S. Ulrich (1983). Science Vol 214.

This study investigates the positive effect on people, who have undergone surgery, of having a room with a view over- looking scenery, compared to a room overlooking a brick wall. 
Ulrich et al hypothesise that patients who view a natural scene from their window, compared to a view of a brick wall, will benefit from this by recovering more quickly from surgery.  They believe that nature - viewed from the hospital window -  will influence a patient's emotional state and thus may affect recovery. Views of vegetation appear to sustain interest and attention. Views of natural settings are thought to elicit positive emotions and reduce fear in people who are stressed and some researchers argue that they play a restorative role in recovery from stress and anxiety.

46 patients recovering from a cholecystectomy, were divided into pairs and one member of each pair had a room with a view of a natural scene while the other had a room with a view of a brick wall.  Patients were matched by age, sex, weight, nature of previous hospitalization, floor level and color of room. 

The research findings were as follows: patients, who had a room with a view of a natural scene, compared to those with a view of a brick wall, were released from hospital earlier, received fewer negative evaluative comments in nurses' notes and took less pain relieving medication and medication for anxiety.  This group also had slightly less post-operative complications.

The researchers acknowledge that the findings from the brick wall study might not be transferable to all views of the built environment and that it may even be the case that a built view, such as a lively street, may even have a positive therapeutic effect.  Also, patients who have been in hospital for long periods may suffer from low arousal or boredom rather than the anxiety associated with this type of surgery, therefore the natural scene may not have the same effect on them. Despite these reservations, they conclude that this research has important implications on the future design of hospitals. 

In summary, this research shows that the view a patient has from their hospital room window can have an effect on recovery time, quantity and cessation of medication taken and also on stress levels.  This has important implications for the design of hospital rooms as it suggests that the quality of view from their window can influence their recovery. 

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